With Digital Powerhouses Calling for End of Flash, Time for Publishers to Double-down on HTML5?

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Having a tough work week? Odds are that it doesn’t compare to the beating that Adobe’s Flash plugin took over potential security concerns which led to Mozilla Firefox announcing that it would block older versions of Flash (Adobe quickly released a new version of Flash that isn’t blocked by Firefox, but needs to be downloaded by the end-user), and Facebook calling for an end date once and for all for the plugin. Mozilla’s announcement means that future updates for browsers such as Chrome, Safari and Opera may follow suit (Google Chrome is informing media organizations that it will no longer auto-play Flash videos).

For publishers, the immediate impact should be small—double-checking their own sites and advertising inventory and substituting new non-Flash creative where appropriate (“Mozilla is less than 10% of our traffic and other browsers still display Flash, so any existing creatives will probably run their course of remaining impressions and then we won’t serve them anymore,” one digital media exec told us).

However, this could open the floodgates for newer, richer creative, particularly driven by HTML5, the coding language that enables publishers to develop device agnostic websites and apps. “This is great for developers everywhere,” said Justin Hoffman, director, interactive development, with Asset International. “This will be a great push for IAB standardization on HTML5 (which is what I expect to happen), and open the flood gates to richer and more tech savvy creative assets that can do more than flash was capable of anyways. HTML5 is quite powerful, and really has potential to alter the landscape over the next few years.”

HTML5 is well entrenched at ag information company Meister Media Worldwide. “We don’t use Flash for anything,” says director of emedia Charlie Craine. “We haven’t for a few years since we built our responsive websites. All of our video is encoded for HTML5 non-flash browsers because of mobile/tablet. Most everything we do is HLS encoded which is what Apple has been using since the iPhone came out.”

However, don’t start looking to HTML 5 as a silver bullet, according to Joel Hughes, senior vice president of data development at Scranton Gillette. For Hughes, it's not HTML5 specifically that matters as much as what his team is trying to accomplish with a given technology.

“When some people think about HTML5 they think ‘oh, that means responsive and mobile friendly’ and when others think about HTML5 they are thinking about ‘using client-side storage and device-native features now provided through the browser to make heavyweight client applications without native app development and infrastructure on mobile devices’- essentially using the browser as a runtime environment," says Hughes. "Others still will look at it as "stuff we had to use Javascript for before such as drawing, form validation, etc. is built into the markup/browser now.’ Further, some may say some of the new markup options help with SEO, etc. Do we use HTML5? Sure, we make sure our markup is HTML5 when we can, using HTML5-specific tags when appropriate. Do we craft rich client-side applications using HTML5 technology specifically? No. Would we consider it if we were launching a mobile application? Definitely.”

While many publishers may be well down the path with HTML5, Flash is still prominent in the advertising world. “We already have clients giving us Ads in HTML5 but the biggest concern we have, and we have made sure to remind our ad operations team is that if we get a Flash ad that we have fallback images as well and recommend they do HTML5 ads,” says Craine. “I think that will be a slower transition for agencies.”

Matt Matt Kinsman is vice president of content + programming at Connectiv, the only association focused on the integrated b-to-b model—including publications, events, digital media, marketing services and business information. Prior to joining Connectiv's predecessor American Business Media in 2011, Kinsman was executive editor of Folio:, the leading information provider for the magazine industry.